Connecting Residents with Nature

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation on the subject of connecting residents with nature.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: A range of parks have been scheduled for works under the Connecting Residents with Nature program, including Anstey Hill Recreation Park, Cobbler Creek Recreation Park, Hallett Cove Conservation Park, Para Wirra Recreation Park, Onkaparinga River Recreation Park, Morialta Conservation Park, Black Hill Conservation Park and the O'Halloran Hill Recreation Park. There are proposals to allow mountain biking and dogs into parts of these parks, where they have not been allowed previously. My questions for the minister are:

1.Was there a formal date on which consultation formally opened and formally closed and, if so, what were those dates?

2.Was each of the Friends of Parks for those particular parks formally consulted?

3.Were they consulted prior to the works taking place? Some of them have certainly expressed concern about the mountain biking and increased access for dogs.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:32 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. The government recognises the intrinsic link between the health and wellbeing of the community and, of course, the environment in which they live.

This is why, at the last state election, we committed $10.4 million to helping get metropolitan Adelaide residents outside into the environment, putting aside the issues around Nature Play SA, which is another fantastic initiative of the government. This was established in the Mount Lofty Ranges as an international mountain biking destination. It also connects residents of the north and south with nature. These were the two focus areas for us. We have made significant progress with these commitments.

We have committed $1.5 million to establish the Mount Lofty Ranges as an international mountain biking destination. The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources convened the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges Mountain Bike Destination Strategic Reference Group. This reference group has membership from relevant local councils, DEWNR, SA Water, Forestry SA, DPTI, the Office for Recreation and Sport, SA Health and the South Australian Tourism Commission. The heads of these organisations have all signed, as I understand it, a memorandum of understanding demonstrating their commitment to the project.

So far, I am advised, we have invested over $680,000 on trail development and signage at Cleland Conservation Park, Sturt Gorge Recreation Park, Shepherd's Hill Recreation Park and Cobbler Creek Recreation Park; development of a technical report; employment of a trail ranger and seasonal trail maintenance crew; and also promotional materials for the community.

The reference group commissioned a technical report to provide strategic recommendations for achieving the state's goal for mountain biking, which was presented to the reference group. The report included recommendations on mountain biking and linkages to complementary activities such as bushwalking, food and wine experiences in the Adelaide Hills and city-based activities. The report also recommended the development of a long-term government model to ensure that project momentum and stakeholder engagement are maintained.

The reference group is in the process of determining the best governance model for an ongoing independent entity to take ownership of the policy and the projects. The report also recommended development of the urban mountain bike park to complement and improve on facilities available at Eagle Mountain Bike Park. DEWNR has engaged with community and other agency representatives to investigate the potential of O'Halloran Hill Recreation Park as a suitable location for that development, I am advised.

The South Australian government has committed, as I said, $10.4 million to improve our parks and reserves in the north and south of metropolitan Adelaide. This commitment includes investing an amount of about $8.5 million and an operating budget of about $1.9 million. We understand the very important role that the community has in shaping decisions that affect their lives and we know we can get better solutions when we engage.

Our investment in connecting residents of the north and south, in nature, will shift perceptions from an environment in isolation of people to a model of community futures and encourage people to appreciate nature and become involved in conservation activities because they are utilising these resources, their parks and coming to love them and coming to demand more of government in protecting them for the future.

We have enabled a strong process of designing with the community that ensured the whole community, not just historic stakeholders, had the opportunity to be involved in the project. We have broadened out the connection with communities. We have used co-design principles to ask local communities how they wanted this money spent. I am advised that over 11,000 people participated in the project and were involved in the southern and northern co-design teams, ministerial round tables, free park open days, submissions to YourSAy website and a Minecraft 'Design a Park' competition, which had nearly 40 entries from primary schools—I think I have spoken about that initiative in this place previously.

The feedback has allowed the government to broadly recognise the importance of rangers for the community, as well as improvements and upgrades to facilities like camping and picnic grounds, walking and cycling trails, information hubs, Nature Play spaces and scenic lookouts. This has resulted in almost 40 infrastructure and education projects, including the creation of five new rangers, plus eight seasonal staff to carry out trail maintenance, as well as $6.5 million worth of works to the northern parks of Para Wirra, Anstey Hill, Morialta, Black Hill and Cobbler Creek, and $2.4 million worth of works to the southern parks of Onkaparinga River, O'Halloran Hill and Hallett Cove, I am advised.

I was pleased to open the first of these projects at Cobbler Creek Recreation Park earlier this month, which features a bird of prey themed playground, picnic area and car park, exciting new mountain bike trails and, importantly, an accessible playground for what are elevated cubby houses, I suppose. There are also ground-level cubbyhouses for those who have certain disabilities and cannot access the elevated ones. Major construction works are well underway in Anstey Hill Recreation Park, I am advised, with others to follow this financial year.

As to the honourable member's question about the particular dates that the consultation opened and closed on, of course I will have to seek advice from the agency and bring that back in due course. And whether each of the Friends of Parks was formally consulted, my expectation is they would have been, but, at the risk of being inconclusive in my answer and missing out any particular friends group, I will seek that advice from the agency and bring that back as well.


Question without notice

Legislative COuncil


In reply to the Hon M Lensink MLC (18 october 2016)

1. Was there a formal date on which consultation formally opened and formally closed, and if so, what were those dates?

2. Was each of the Friends of Parks for those particular parks formall consulted?

3. Were they consulted prior to the works taking place?

Hon Ian Hunter MLC

"The Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation has receieved the following advice:

1. As part of the Connecting Residents with Nature project, two community consultation processes were carried out; the first process ran from October 2014 to June 2015, and the second ran from 21 April 2016 to 22 July 2016.

2. The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources formally consulted with each of the relevant Friends group throughout every stage of the project. The Friends groups were represented on the Northern and Southern suburbs co-design teams. The Friends groups were also invited to give feedback on draft park management plans.

3. THe Friends groups have been informally and formally consulted throughout the project.